Thunderbolts earn special honour

EMO—The Emo Thunderbolts hockey team may not win a lot of games, but they’re still winners.
The PeeWee squad recently was named one of the 13 winners from across Canada in the Wayne Gretzky Foundation/Canadian Hockey Foundation’s “Future Team Canada” program.
The program rewards and recognizes minor hockey teams for the amount of heart they show, rather than the number of games they win.
“I found it on the Internet,” noted Paula Clifford, who began coaching the sport for the first time this season.
“I read it over, filled it out, and sent it in—not thinking we would ever hear from them again,” she noted.
But just before Christmas, Clifford received an incredible phone call.
“I thought, ‘No way,’” she recalled. “I was pretty much in shock.”
In order to be entered for the program, Clifford had to write a short essay detailing the special characteristics and values the team has that could make it a future Team Canada.
“The essay was my view on how I believe hockey should go forward,” she explained, noting she wrote about keeping the sport positive for the kids.
“How Emo is a small town, but we make up for it in spirit,” Clifford added. “The players have to travel a fair distance to the arena, but they come with hockey bags on their backs and sticks in their hands ready to play hockey.”
Clifford said she also stressed each child’s right to play.
“I don’t believe any child should sit on the bench or miss their turn because they may not be as good as the next child. They learn better by doing . . . and I like to make it fun for them,” she enthused.
Each player on the team will get a Team Canada jersey and hockey bags bearing the Wayne Gretzky Foundation and Hockey Canada logo, gloves, and sticks.
The team also will receive $1,000 to be used for team development and their team picture will be placed on the wall at Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto.
In addition, the coaches will take home gloves, a stick, bag, Coaching Club membership, development DVDs, and more.
“I think Emo hockey will really benefit from the $1,000,” Clifford remarked. “And it’s nice for the coaches to get the DVDs because they all work, so for them to take workshops, they have to take a day off of work.”
Clifford added her team was surprised about the honour.
“They were really excited,” she noted. “I hadn’t told them I had entered it, so they all thought it was pretty awesome.”
But she noted it couldn’t have gone to a more deserving team.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” she enthused. “They haven’t been winning many games, but they come off the ice and they’re still smiling.
“Every time they go out there, they improve and they are a really great team,” she added. “I really am proud of them.
“So it was really nice to win this to give them a little boost for the year.”
Now the kids would like “The Great One” to come and deliver all the goodies personally, Clifford chuckled.
“But I don’t think that will happen,” she laughed.